Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Little Mantilla Rant...

I have a little pet peeve here. This post will only concern Catholic readers most likely, so my other friends and blog friends be warned.

It is coming back into vogue for Catholic women [usually of the very devout bent, of which I am one], to cover their heads when in Mass, as they did for 2,000 years before Vatican II.

Now, lest you think this post is about me disagreeing with this practice - it is not. I believe that covering the head to go into Holy Mass and the presence of Almighty God is an excellent practice. Anything that helps us step out of our secular lives and *recognize* that we are in the presence of the Divine is wonderful IMO. And head covering does this. It also shows respect and love for God, which I also love.

I wish that more women did it.

No, this rant is about Mantillas specifically. You see, Mantillas have become the "retro head covering" of choice among head covering Catholic Women in Mass.

It drives me bonkers actually. I have tried covering with a mantilla, and it is one of the most annoying things I've ever tried to do - it is slippery lace that won't stay on your head. For me at least, it meant that I spent most of Mass fussing with the stupid thing to keep it from falling off.

For my daughters, it is even worse - to the point that it became an occasion of sin [goofing with the stupid mantilla instead of worshiping God] and I took them all away and refused to let the poor little wenches cover in Mass. [Heartless I am. LOL!]

But I just don't get it.

First, I think they look stupid. It just looks like someone took a piece of spare lace and laid it over their head.

Second, I don't think Mantillas even fulfill the purpose of head covering. According to my very devout and orthodox Priest, the reason women are called to veil their heads is that they are veiling the hair and in effect, veiling their beauty, so as not to distract from the beauty of Christ and the beauty of the Sacred and Divine there in the Sanctuary.

A mantilla does NOT cover the hair or conceal it in any way - it is "see through" lace. It doesn't veil anything - if anything, one could say it is a way of "enhancing" the beauty of the hair because instead of veiling the hair, one is "dressing it up" in a see through lace party dress. :) [I'm thinking this is the difference between a burqa and a negligee personally....]

If we are covering our heads out of modesty... well, lace doesn't really do it does it? [And in NO WAY am I advocating for Burqas for Christian women, just trying to point out the irony of using lace to cover something up that isn't supposed to be seen.]

Third, it gets even worse with younger girls when I see some of them with the equivalent of a small lace doily on the very top of their heads - it just looks too silly to take seriously. It looks like great-grandma pinned one of her lace tea coasters to the kids' head.

I don't know - it just doesn't seem like this lace mantilla thing has been well thought out.

In my case, I have just decided not to cover at all. I feel stupid in a mantilla and I feel conspicuous if I veil with anything else. We are fortunate at our Church that a fair number of women and girls veil, but they ALL use mantillas and anything else seems to "stick out like a sore thumb" - which, in my opinion, *detracts* and *distracts* from the Mass - which is the whole thing I'm supposed to be avoiding.

Devorah, however, has some really cool head coverings that actually cover the hair and also tie into place [instead of that free floating lace mantilla that you have to try to pin to your head with hair pins. It doesn't work very well]. I think I may buy a couple of hers and see if I can't start a revolution in our little Church. Wish me luck. :)

One final reason I don't like mantillas is that sometimes they can be used as a tool of "judgment" - I have seen a few women who veil look down upon those who don't in a very self satisfied way - definitely in a "I am MUCH holier than you because you don't cover your head" kind of way. And I think that is a terrible shame and a road block in their own personal spiritual growth. But, of course, that is no reason not to practice something that is otherwise a good and wholesome thing to do. [And to be fair to Mantillas, this could be a problem no matter what the woman chose to cover with.]

We need to guard our thoughts so that we don't condemn our fellow worshipers as somehow "less" than ourselves because they don't have a doily on their head.

I'm just saying... :)

God Bless you!


  1. hello
    Thanks for this very interesting and thought-provoking post.

    My parish priest doesnt like mantillas because he says there is a serious risk of 'holier than thou' syndrome.

    thanks also for that link. They look very nice.

    God bless

  2. I think some non-mantilla wearers just FEEL judged by mantilla wearers. Just like non-skirt-wearers feel judged by skirt wearers. It's just a perceived judgment I think, at least most of the time. I don't have an answer and your blog post was very interesting. I think maybe it just goes back to women and how we act with each other. I wear skirts the majority of the time but it's a personal conviction and I don't expect everyone else to.

  3. Having been very close friends with several mantilla wearers over the last 10 years, it definitely isn't "a perception" with some of them - there really was a "holier than thou" syndrome going on. [Thanks for that phrase Antonia! It is perfect!] Others of them are the most holy and humble women you'd ever meet, so it isn't universal by any means.

  4. I don't like mantillas (for myself, I really don't care if others wear them) because I feel like I'm attracting attention to myself. I only know of woman in my parish that wears one. I guess if I wore one all the time people would get used to seeing me in it. Ah well. No, we make enough of a scene with children trying to lift up the back of my shirt or pulling out my scapular I guess.

  5. What a great discussion post! I am happy that I have been ignorant of any "holier than thou" judgments. I have been contemplating on wearing one, as my sister attends Latin Mass in Savannah, and it's more common than not to wear one there. I am pretty comfortable that when the time is right, maybe after DDs FHC, it shouldn't be a big ordeal with our congregation (lest they be scolded by Father!).

  6. I wear a mantilla at Mass. I just sewed a little comb into the top of the veil so that it is securely anchored in place. I love the practice and love to encourage more women to practice the custom.
    A friend's spiritual director had this to say about the "holier-than-thou" aspect:
    "It is an entirely appropriate gesture for a woman to wear a head covering in a Catholic church regardless of what Mass is being said. Even if it does draw attention to yourself it could very well be the catalyst that stimulates interest on the part of other women and could lead to a deepening of their faith. There may be some that scoff, but I suspect there will be many more who are edified."

    I actually started a blog dedicated to encouraging the wearing of chapel veils

    However, if you don't feel comfortable wearing the more traditional mantilla-style veil, you can cover your hair with something from etc.

  7. Hi Elaine,

    I agree that when a head covering is worn with a proper spirit of humility and love it could certainly inspire others.

    garlandsofgrace has some beautiful pieces. Most of them would not serve to cover the hair any more than a mantilla does though.

    I think wearing a headcovering is a lovely gesture of piety, please don't get me wrong. I just don't like mantillas myself. :)

  8. Amen. I have a lace veil, but I don't wear it much -- I haven't found a completely satisfactory way to keep it from falling off. My "default" is a hybrid headband/scarf I got at the supermarket (picture here, on the right underneath the guy in the du-rag). It's not "full coverage," but it serves its primary purpose of keeping my mind on Christ, without distracting other people or being a lot of trouble to put or keep on.

    Apart from my kid sister and me, there's just one other lady at our parish who veils, so there hasn't really been an issue of people being competitive or holier-than-thou.

    On the other hand, last year my sister was told (by her teacher, not the priest) not to cover her head at school Masses -- apparently the teacher thought she was showing off. (I don't know if things are any different this year. I should ask her.)